Tag Archives: Robertson Cup Playoffs

Game 5: Knights Knock off Titans to Advance to Round 2

Sunday’s winner-take-all match up between the Knights and Titans lived up to its billing with high intensity from the opening puck drop. In hostile territory, the Knights aimed to advance with their first playoff series win in the organization’s short NAHL history.

The team received exactly the kick start it needed when Reed Robinson notched his first goal of the postseason just 5:39 into the first. Having played each other nine times over the last month, the Knights and Titans have become familiar with some of each other’s tendencies. Robinson, pressuring in the low right wing while the Titans attempted to coordinate a breakout, hawked a pass from behind the net at the front door, and proceeded to rip a shot through Titans goalie Matt Ladd for the 1-0 lead.

For much of the first, the Knights battled hard and succeeded in driving pucks and possession in the offensive zone, while executing fast, and crisp breakouts out of their own end. They were backstopped again by stellar play from Christian Stoever. Fresh off a 51-save shutout in game four, Stoever was tremendous in net once more, fending off a few early odd-man rushes from New Jersey, on his way to 14 saves in the first.

In the period’s final minute, the Knights top line moved out of their own zone on a quick rush up the left wing. Jack Olmstead flipped a puck ahead to Michael Morrissey who started a 2-on-1 with Matt Kidney over the Titans blue line. Kidney led Morrissey to the left circle, where the latter backhanded a perfect set up back to Matt Kidney who had looped back through the slot. Kidney, playing once again in his hometown, darted across the face of Ladd before putting home his first goal of the playoffs, moving the Knights up 2-0 with just 10 seconds left in the first.

Spurred on by their early success, the Knights picked up where they left off in the opening period with a swift attack that drew an early penalty in the second. Late in the ensuing power play, Reed Robinson fired into the offensive zone where he threw a puck back to a trailing Tyrone Bronte. After accepting a return pass, Robinson spotted a wide-open Blake Kryska at the top of the zone.  With ice in front of him, Kryska walked Robinson’s pass through the slot before burying a wrister by Ladd for the 3-0 lead at 6:09.

The Titans finally got on the board just prior to the halfway point of the second. Jimmy Dowd Jr. flipped a puck through center ice from the left side of his own blue line. A savvy move by Matt Cameron caused the Knights to over commit to the winger, while the speedy Ryan Naumovski took the puck in over the right wing of the attacking end. Beating the backcheck to the bottom of the zone, Naumovski flipped a puck off a body in front and past Stoever to cut the Knights lead to 3-1.

The flood gates opened in the second half of the period for New Jersey as the Titans began an onslaught of chances and shifts in the Knights end of the ice. Stoever stood tall as the Knights attempted to regroup, and the score remained 3-1 at the end of 40 minutes of play.

On a carryover stretch of 4-on-4 hockey to start the third, the Titans turned to their speed to take advantage of the extra space on the ice. Nick Boyagian started a breakout with a long pass from behind his own net to Ryan Wheeler. Wheeler criss-crossed behind the lightning-fast Wade Novak as the pair crossed the blue line. The defenseman had just enough room to bank a pass of the boards behind Stoever’s net, which pinballed perfectly to a crashing Novak. With his third goal of the playoffs, Novak beat Stoever to the back post, narrowing the score to 3-2 just 50 seconds into the period.

With the momentum reversed heavily against them, the Knights needed to come up with a fast response. On a sequence that appeared to be going the wrong way for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Joey Verkerke came up with a game-turning play.

After a Knights defender fell down to allow Ryan Naumovski a seemingly clear path to the net, Verkerke made a diving block through the low slot, pushing the puck into the corner. Regaining his feet, Verkerke pushed the puck back up the left wall to Justin Engelkes who laced a perfect home-run pass to the streaking Adrian Danchenko up the right wing. Danchenko received the puck just prior to the red line, and burned the Titans last back-checker to create a breakaway. In alone on Ladd, Danchenko ripped a perfect shot top shelf, stick-side to regain the two-goal lead just under three minutes into the third.

With the multi-goal advantage once more, the Knights quickly went into a defensive-mode, easing slightly off the attack and placing trust in their defense and their red-hot goaltender to seal the victory. They held the score through the bulk of the period to force the Titans hand late.

Down two with just over three minutes remaining, Matt Ladd left the crease for the extra attacker. The Knights were placed under siege as the Titans, who had already forced several icings just minutes prior, maintained the offensive zone on long shifts. Their shots made it to the net, but not by Stoever, who made one great stop  after another on his way to 49 saves for the evening, and finishing with 129 on the weekend.

The final highlight came after Stoever leapt out of his stance to knock a high shot away with the stick, with just under two minutes to play. Lincoln Hatten’s clearing effort just missed New Jersey’s open net, keeping tired Knights legs on the ice for another faceoff.

This time, Michael Morrissey won the puck cleanly off the draw and flipped it back to the corner for Thomas Farrell. Farrell lifted the puck up the side-wall to Hatten, who barreled his way out of the zone. Playing an expert game of keep-away through three poke-check attempts, Hatten skated the puck to just above the Titans blue line where he arched a backhanded shot perfectly into the open net.

The Knights fifth goal secured the game-five win, as well as their first series win in their Robertson Cup Playoff history. They will move on to take on the Philadelphia Rebels in the East Division Finals, another best-of-five series, beginning later this week. The schedule will be released shortly.

Stay tuned to www.wbsknights.com and Knights social media for all news and updates!

Game 4: Stoever Stuns Titans as Knights Force Game 5

Facing win-or-go-home circumstances, the Knights made a stand Saturday night. Christian Stoever summoned his finest performance of the year and Gabe Temple continued his tear through the Robertson Cup Playoffs on the way to a Knights 1-0 victory.

In game four, Stoever squared off against his game three counterpart, Matt Ladd. Ladd entered play with two victories in the series, looking to add a series-clinching third. He was strong in the pipes yet again, making 37 saves on the evening, but the lone shot that bested him proved to be costly.

The score came at the 12:59 marker of the first period. On the game’s first power play, Gabe Temple fired a puck on net. The rebound off of Ladd’s save kicked over to a crashing Jack Olmstead on the back door, who jarred the puck across to Curtis Carlson on the opposite post. Carlson’s shot was denied by Ladd as well before the rebound kicked back to Temple in the slot. Temple ripped home the game’s first and only goal, extending his goal streak to three-straight games.

For the remainder of play, the Knights and Titans exchanged hits, penalties, and grade-a saves. Things built to an especially chippy ending the final five minutes of play. Through a host of penalties, scrums, toe and glove saves by Stoever, the Knights fought off the Titans attempt to tie the game including a final 1:10 with the extra attacker on. When the dust settled, the Knights had evened the series at two games, forcing a game five this evening in New Jersey.

Puck drop for the winner-take-all affair will take place at 5:00 PM EDT. You can watch the game online at hockeytv.com, or follow along with Knights social media and www.nahl.com.

 

Game 3: Knights Rally Falls Just Short

Game three in the Knights-Titans East Division Semi-Finals brought the competition to the Revolution Ice Centre with the series even at one. Friday’s contest saw the Titans surge out to an early lead.
After hemming the Knights in on a long shift early, the Titans fired a flurry of shots at Knights starter Christian Stoever. After he made saves on the initial Titans offerings, a rebound kicked out to Gavin Gulash on the short side. Gulash buried the puck for the game’s first goal at 2:56. Ryan Naumovski and Nick Boyagian tallied assists in the score. Andrew Husted added to the Titans lead after he deflected Chris Garbe’s shot past Stoever just three minutes later.
The Knights had no shortage of opportunities to respond. The team was stymied on all 12 of their first period shots, in addition to a few quality chances that missed the net of Ladd. In one instance, Ladd denied Jack Olmstead alone in close and then made a diving save to rob Matt Kidney of the would-be rebound goal.
The Titans would rally behind the efforts of the goaltender and their power play late in the period. With just six seconds remaining in their first man-advantage, Tate Singleton notched his first goal of the postseason after re-directing a Ryan Naumovski shot. Tyler Antonucci recorded the secondary assist on the tally, giving the Titans a commanding 3-0 lead with under five minutes remaining in the first.
The second period saw the game’s pace slow significantly as neither side found much success moving the puck. Turnovers, icings, and pucks put out of play dominated the early going, leaving little in terms of quality chances.
As had been the case for Wilkes/Barre-Scranton in game two, Gabe Temple was able to provide a spark. The Knights first-round draft pick scored his team’s first goal for the second-consecutive game, teed up by Jake Fuss and Tomas Koblizek on a rush down the ice at 12:01.
With the deficit trimmed to two, the Knights carried momentum into the third period. After beginning the frame on a carryover power play, the Knights quickly saw the advantage evaporate when they were penalized for hooking on a failed breakaway. Undeterred, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton would a penalty 48 seconds later, pushing the game to 4-on-4 and an eventual Knights power play.
Shortly after the second power play’s expiration, Gabe Temple threw a puck to the slot where Jack Olmstead fired it to the netfront. Ladd and a host of bodies piled on the puck in the low slot, with the effort kicking it over to right post. There, lying prone on his back, Curtis Carlson shoveled the puck through Ladd to bring the Knights within a single score.
Wade Novak winded the comeback effort just over a minute and a half later.  The explosive skater tore up the ice on a 3-on-2 rush. As Stoever moved to mirror his effort, Novak buried a shot top-shelf over Stoever’s glove to re-establish a two-goal lead (Kyle Jeffers).
In what can be described as an all-world counter punch, Michael Morrissey swung momentum back in the opposite direction less than a minute later. As the Titans attempted a breakout, Morrissey, pressuring alone in the offensive  zone, pick-pocketed a Titans defenseman on the right circle before streaking in on goal. He ripped a shot past Ladd to narrow the score to 4-3.
Momentum on their side, the Knights re-doubled their efforts and managed to create another handful of quality chances as time ticked away in the third. Still, they struggled to break through against Ladd.
Their best chance came on a 2-on-1 with time dwindling, when Adrian Danchenko found Justin Engelkes with a cross-slot pass just after the pair gained the Titans zone. Engelkes lifted a heavy shot on goal, only to be denied by a sprawling Ladd.
Off the back of his efforts, the Titans fended off the last of the Knights comeback attempt, including 1:30 of facing an extra attacker, securing themselves a 2-1 series lead heading into game four.
Game four will be played tonight at the Revolution Ice Centre at 6:00 PM EDT. Admission is $5 at the door, and the game will be broadcast on hockeytv.com. Follow along on Knights social media and at NAHL.com!

Slow Start, Chippy Finish too Much for Knights to Overcome in Game 1

Series openers can set a tone, and if yesterday’s competition is any indication, the Knights and Titans first round will have no shortage of fireworks. Though Saturday’s score reflected a one-sided affair, the contest was hardly lopsided, as shots and penalty minutes flew abundantly from both sides.

The biggest separator between the Knights and Titans was New Jersey’s fast start in the first period, Saturday. With the benefit of home ice and a lively crowd behind them, the Titans controlled play through much of the first frame. David Tomeo earned the start in game one, and was tested early and often. In an otherwise sterling period, the West Caldwell backstop was bested twice on 23 shots.

Just past the 7:30 marker, a Titans combination of Nick Boyagian and Ryan Naumovski, swept in over the Knights blue line. Boyagian passed over to Naumovski on the right wing, where he centered the puck back to the top of the slot for the crashing Jimmy Dowd. The defenseman’s heavy shot rang off the pads of Tomeo who had charged to the top of the crease. The rebound kicked right back to Dowd, whose second try was denied by Tomeo sprawling forward and directing the puck to the side of the net, losing his stick in the process. Boyagian sat in waiting on the near goal post, but his effort to put the loose change home behind the fallen Tomeo missed through the crease. It kicked fortuitously back to Naumovksi, who circled his way to the top of the zone. Narrowly avoiding a shot block effort by Justin Engelkes, Naumovski flicked a quick wrister on goal, beating Tomeo to the back post for the 1-0 lead.

On the Knights third penalty kill of the period, the Titans struck again. The first shot coming from Ryan Wheeler off the cycle was turned aside by Tomeo. The rebound could not be cleared, as Boyagian climbed down the right boards to sift the puck back to the original point man, Wheeler. This time, he connected with Hunter Alden on a crisp pass to the middle of the slot, just past the stick of Reed Robinson. With space in the middle of the ice, Alden pulled Blake Kryska to the bottom of the slot in an attempt to block a shot that never came. Instead, Alden found the now-open Kyler Head at the bottom of the right circle, where the forward ripped a puck through, short side for the 2-0 lead at 18:36.

Resilient, the Knights ended an otherwise quiet period with a bang. After seeing limited action through much of the first, Titans starter Matt Ladd was beaten by the speed of the Knights transition offense. With about 20 seconds remaining in the opening frame, Matt Kidney sent an exit pass up the left wing boards to Jack Olmstead. Olmstead turned and curled a puck through neutral ice to Tyrone Bronte. Bronte gave the puck back to Olmstead as the pair gained the Titans line. From out wide on the left circle, Olmstead sent a perfect centering pass to the crashing Shay Donovan on the back door, where he deflected the rubber home, cutting the lead to one goal with 14 seconds left in the first.

The catalyst of a late-period goal bolstering them into the second, the Knights started the middle stanza with an explosive attack. Just past a minute in, on a seemingly innocent face-off win and charge up the left wall, the Titans were foiled once more by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s transition offense. Luke Robinson shut off Nick Boyagian just after he left his own zone. The loose puck was corralled and swung back to the Knights blue line by Reed Robinson. His pass found Blake Kryska who took a pair of strides before firing a stretch pass off the blade of Lincoln Hatten for what looked to be a routine tip-in. Hardly anything is routine when Curtis Carlson is skating into the attacking zone. Using his speed, the Knights captain plucked the puck off its fortuitous bounce off the side boards. He then blew past both Spencer Stanley and Ryan Wheeler, and with a quick flick of the wrists, ripped a shot across the face of Ladd for the game-tying goal.

From there, the Knights continued their siege of Ladd’s crease. Over the first half of the period, Ladd stood down a flurry of Knights shots, keeping the game even at two. As the Knights chances on goal mounted, so too did the tension and physicality of play.

Tomeo answered Ladd’s steady netminding with strong saves of his own. As the Titans weathered the early Knights surge, they began to create chances back the other way in the form of rushes down the ice. Twice Tomeo robbed the Titans on breakaways. The momentum slowly began to swing back to New Jersey’s effort as they began to breakout more cleanly and more often.

The turning point came just after the 13:00 mark of the second. After fending off shots from Tate Singleton and Zachary Farmeouth, Tomeo was beaten when Faremouth’s rebound was sent back to him from the corner by Hunter Alden. The centering feed allowed Faremouth to tee up a one-timer that was altered by a stick as he connected. The bad-luck puck came up high and off a Knights body in front of Tomeo, completely changing course in mid-air. The arching shot floated over the outstretched stick of the Knights goaltender and into the twine. Just after the puck crossed the goal line, Tomeo was knocked flat by Singleton, prompting a major scrum in the crease. Penalties were handed to each side to create a 4-on-4.

The Titans added a second man to the box after they were caught with too many men on the ice during a line change. The abbreviated Knights 4-on-3 and then 5-on-4 power play was cut just short on a high-intensity sequence of events with just seconds remaining on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton advantage. As the Knights circled the net of Ladd, Tyrone Bronte was laid out by Tate Singleton in the low slot as the Titans regained possession of the puck. On the ensuing clearing effort, Blake Kryska leveled Hunter Alden as he fielded the puck at the center ice logo. Kryska was penalized with a 5:00 major for kneeing.

After an initially neutralizing the first 3:51 of the extended Titans power play, the Knights penalty kill finally buckled. With 7.5 seconds left in the period, Hunter Alden and Ryan Wheeler played catch at the top of the Knights zone before Alden let a shot go that was re-directed through a screen in front by Kyler Head. The puck tucked its way through, giving the Titans a 4-2 lead.

In the third, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton killed off the remainder of the major penalty, but neither side could resist the urge to extend chippy exchanges beyond the whistle. All totaled, the teams combined for 54 penalty minutes-seven minor penalties, three misconducts-sapping five on five hockey, and ultimately working to preserve the two-goal lead for New Jersey.

The Titans added one more goal to their ledger at the halfway point of the third. Kyle Jeffers raced in over the line, and handed a puck to the just-onside Ryan Wheeler. Wheeler alertly found the wide-open Wade Novak crashing through the back side of the zone, where he buried the puck for the 5-2 lead.

Time ran out on the Knights comeback effort as the Titans took game one on the back of physical, emotional effort. A pivotal game two takes place today again in New Jersey at 5:00 PM EDT. Tune in on hockeytv.com and follow along on Knights social media!

Bronte Reflects on First NAHL Season, Confidence Heading into Playoffs

One couldn’t ask for a much better 2017-18 season from Knights rookie forward Tyrone Bronte. Bronte’s regular season started off with a bang, helping him to reach 35 points, including two game-winning goals.  The Australian-born forward said that even he was not expecting himself to put up as many points as he did.

“It set a foundation and and expectation for me throughout the whole season,” he explained. “I wanted to keep up that pace. Unfortunately, there was a 15 or so game stretch where, as a team and personally, it just wasn’t going to plan.”

The Knights struggled through a stretch of games spanning from February into March. Bronte noted that this two-month period was tough on him especially.

“I didn’t score as much as I would’ve liked to, and it’s tough to get back into a mindset where you want to score goals when you haven’t been doing well.”

The team, as well as Bronte, were able to snap this cold streak midway into March.  The rookie attributed a lot of his personal growth during this period to his parents as well as his coaches.

“I talked to some of my old coaches as well as my parents and they helped me to get out of my own head.”

Bronte also mentioned that his conversations with Knights head coach Tom Kowal were crucial in helping him get back to his early-season form. 

“He was good at being understanding, but also being straight with me. He told me, ‘Look, you aren’t playing as well as you were at the start of the season, but you know you can play better.’”

Bronte said he and his teammates tried to have more fun with the game, and that after these changes, they started to play much better as a team.

“It was a season with a lot of ups and downs, but overall I can’t complain.”

Looking forward to the Knights playoff series against the New Jersey Titans, Bronte said that he and the team were familiar with the Titans style.

“We play every team in our division a lot, so all of the eastern division teams are going to know how to play one another,” he said. “It will come down to who wants it more.”

The Knights regular season record against the Titans was positive, standing at 7-3-2.  The last time the two teams met, the Knights were able to take two games in a three-game series, including an 8-1 home victory.  Bronte had two goals and two assists across the three games.

This time around, as often is the case in any hockey postseason, Bronte expects the focus to shift to goal tending. He has faith in the Knights goalies and defense.

“If we can keep the game to a low score against a transition team like the Titans, we feel confident in our ability to put goals on the board.” 

Bronte was also confident in the other members of the team going into the series opener against the Titans on Saturday.

“As long as we’re all trying 100% in practice and carrying that over into the first round of the playoffs, I think that we can achieve our goal.”

Knights Season Ends in Dramatic Game Three

Rebels rally in third period to take series

When the story is written about the Knights 2016-17 season, progress will be a prominent theme. Despite an unfavorable outcome, the same could be said about last night’s competition against the Rebels. In their 15th meeting of the year, the Knights had one of their best starts against their East Division foe.

After going 0-8 to start the playoffs on the power play, the Knights received an early boost when Paul Maust redirected a point shot from Joey Verkerke at 8:43. A period that was largely even in that neither team found much rhythm to their offense, the Knights goal allowed them to keep pace with Aston’s speed.

The Rebels finally found an answer late in the first period. Dustin Manz ripped a shot from the top of the offensive zone that bested Grant Valentine over his right shoulder.

To start the second period, the Knights would quickly find themselves on the power play again and kept their hot streak alive. Joe Schuler tipped home a point shot from Paul Cimilluca at 2:09, making their man advantage unit a perfect 2-for-2.

The goal ignited the Knights attack to a level unprecedented against the Rebels. Their attack pushed Aston’s normally stout defense into making errors in their own end. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton forwards were aggressive on the boards and in front of the net as they began hemming the Rebels in for consecutive shifts. Mike Gelatt capitalized at 8:19 when he tipped another Paul Cimilluca point shot past Mitens, chasing the goalie midway through the second.

The onslaught continued but Aston backup netminder Jack Leavy kept the Knights off the board for the rest of the period. In the last few shifts before the second intermission, Aston finally pushed back. At 19:19, Drew Blackmun ripped a rebound past Valentine to bring the Rebels back within one.

The Knights would race out of the gate in the third period forcing yet another Aston penalty and parallel to their second period start, Paul Cimilluca fired a point shot through traffic where fellow defenseman Tim Gelatt tipped the puck home. A 4-2 lead appeared to have the Knights in the driver seat. The Rebels had other intentions.

At 6:56, Gianluca Esteves turned a loose puck in neutral ice into a 2-on-1 rush with Evgeny Yakovlev. A cross-ice pass from the former to the latter moved the Rebels back within one. On the fourth power play of the night for the Rebels, Gvido Jansons ripped a rocket past Valentine at 10:59 to tie the game at 4.

Their foot on the gas pedal, the Rebels didn’t relent. Jansons struck again at 14:34 to give his team a 5-4 lead. A minute later, on their fifth power play, the Rebels tallied goal number four of the period when Jansons buried a hat trick to build a 6-4 advantage.

The Knights would not let their season end quietly. On their fifth opportunity on the man advantage with Valentine pulled for the extra attacker, Mike Gelatt scored power play goal number four with under two minutes to go.

With the net empty again, the Knights came within inches of putting the puck past a falling Jack Leavy, but the big goalie sat on top of the puck to keep the score 6-5. On the next shift, Brennan Kapcheck found the puck and flipped it down the length of the ice for an empty-net goal.

The score put an end to a wild night of momentum swings and with it the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton season.

Though the it ended earlier than they wanted, the Knights can hang their hat on a hard-fought season of improvement.